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The Netherlands to Penalize Groups Silent on Reporting Sexual Abuse

September 1, 2020, 05.17 PM

AMSTERDAM, – The Dutch government is looking to strengthen support for victims of sexual abuse in the Netherlands by punishing individuals who fail to report such cases.

The move comes after Jehovah’s Witnesses rejected demands to tackle the under-reporting of sexual abuse.

As part of the effort, the Dutch government wants to prosecute members of private groups and communities who fail to report sexual abuse in their organizations.

Read also: Cultural Norms Stall Deliberations of Indonesia's Sexual Violence Bill

A 2019 report commissioned by the government to investigate sexual abuse involving Jehovah's Witnesses found few cases were being reported to police.

However, group leaders dismissed calls for change and said they were being discriminated against.

They were not immediately available for comment on the latest government plans.

Minister for Legal Protection Sander Dekker said the reluctance to change had spurred him to analyze how a law that punished organizations for failing to report sexual abuse could be structured.

"This makes it clear to me that the leadership (of the Jehovah's Witnesses community) does not see or does not want to see the gravity of the situation. The leadership is leaving vulnerable victims out in the cold," he said in a letter to parliament published late on Thursday.

"Victims of sexual abuse in the Netherlands have the same right to access help, care, and justice, regardless of which community they belong to," he added, promising a progress update on the potential legislation later this year.

Read also: Dutch Gymnastics Federation Investigating Abuse Allegations of Women’s Training Program

The 2019 report, carried out by the University of Utrecht, found that about 80% of the 751 members who came forward to speak with researchers had reported abuse to leaders within the community.

Three quarters said the response was inadequate.

Only 28% of them made an official report to the police, the research found. Almost half of the cases involved incest.

In order to provide more urgent support to victims, Dekker said he had allocated government funding to the Reclaimed Voices Foundation, a charity supporting sexually abused children within the Jehovah's Witness community.


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